Entries by Posted by Linda Rink (77)


Black Ribbon Day Commemoration at Victims of Communism Memorial 

Estonian American National Council members joined the Joint Baltic American National Committee on August 23rd for their 10th commemoration of Black Ribbon Day at the Victims of Communism (VoC) Memorial in Washington DC.  Over 40 people attended, including representatives from five embassies – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Hungary – along with VoC staff and others who gathered to remember the consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.  The three Baltic embassies laid wreaths at the memorial and their representatives made remarks.  It was the first official event for the newly appointed Latvian ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Andris Teikmanis.EANC was represented by (from right): President Marju Rink-Abel; Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey; and board member Maia Linask. Photo courtesy of JBANC

The event was a solemn reminder of how the so-called Treaty of Non-aggression secretly negated the borders of sovereign nations, leading to World War II and the death, deportation, or displacement of hundreds of thousands.  Parallels were drawn between this period in history and current events in Georgia and Ukraine.  Speakers and audience members speculated that if more people remembered Soviet Russia’s 1939 invasions of the Baltics and their aftermath, there might be broader support for Ukraine, more substantial penalties against Russia for its incursions, and more concern over rhetoric from both sides of the Atlantic regarding the status of NATO and Baltic security.

The continuing tradition of commemorating Black Ribbon Day remains a top JBANC priority.  They have been working over the last few years to have it designated a day of public observance by Congress and presidential proclamation.  In the new administration, EANC will join JBANC’s efforts to establish official recognition of this most significant day in European history.  


CEEC Reaffirms Need for Strong U.S. Leadership in Europe


CEEC Reaffirms Need for Strong U.S. Leadership in Europe
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States' continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America's close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.
The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that "Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.”  Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.

At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations.
The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.

The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.
1612 K Street, NW, Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20006 
Established in 1994, CEEC is composed of eighteen national, membership-based organizations representing Americans of Armenian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent.

The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) is a member organization of the CEEC. 



JBANC Statement on Importance of the Baltics in NATO - July 21, 2016

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) is very concerned with recent misguided statements related to the United States' commitment to upholding NATO treaty agreements. As a non-partisan organization, JBANC believes in and advocates for robust transatlantic relations between the United States and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Our organization stands firm in its belief that NATO and America's commitment to its NATO allies are fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security, and urges both the current Administration and that elected in November to continue to support all NATO allies, including the Baltic countries, and reaffirm commitment to the Treaty's Article V. Continued dangerous rhetoric on either side of the Atlantic could harm some of America’s best friends, partners, and allies in NATO. 

The Baltic countries are undeniably strong in their commitments to NATO and fully understand what is at stake. Although challenged in fully rebuilding their militaries over the past 25 years, they have worked to fulfill their NATO commitments. Estonia spends over 2% of GDP of pledged defensive expenditures, and while currently just under 2%, Latvia and Lithuania have been increasing their military budgets more rapidly than any of the other NATO members over the past few years, and will be reaching that threshold soon. There has been rock-solid commitment and engagement by the Baltic countries in supporting NATO and U.S.-led actions in Iraq, the Balkans, and in Afghanistan, after invoking the Article V commitment to help defend the United States after 9/11. 

The Alliance is facing more and more unconventional threats. It is imperative for allies to share their collective knowledge in key security areas – whether cyber, strategic communications, or in the energy security sphere. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania make substantial contributions in all of these areas. 

JBANC condemns any indication that the United States might reconsider its Treaty obligation to defend a NATO member, especially on economic grounds. During these increasingly turbulent times, we need strong solidarity among all of our NATO allies. Transatlantic ties must be solid; the United States cannot allow any weakening of resolve or commitment to our allies. The ironclad long-lasting leadership of the United States in NATO is critically important. Baltic-Americans particularly understand the importance of effective U.S. leadership in supporting these alliances. We take great pride in the cooperation and strong relationships forged between the United States and the Baltic countries and support all actions to continue them. 

JBANC represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association, Inc., and the Lithuanian American Council. 

Victims of Communism Commemoration Honors Paul Goble.

The 9th annual commemoration organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation took place on June 9-10, 2016, culminating in a ceremony at the memorial statue in Washington DC.  The "roll call of nations" featured 20 embassies and 31 organizations representing ethnic groups who have suffered under the tyranny of communism.  Their wreaths formed a striking semicircle around the statue in honor of the victims of communism.

Paul Goble was featured as the keynote speaker at the ceremony.  Goble, who has a long career as a specialist on ethnic and religious issues in Eurasia and the Baltics, received the 2016 Truman-Regan Medal of Freedom a day earlier at a dinner organized by the Memorial Foundation.  He was the keynote speaker at that event as well as on June 10th.  

EANC representatives Marju Rink-Abel and Karin Shuey present the EANC wreath at the Victims of Communism memorial. (Photo: Ausma Tomsevics)


June 2016 Baltic Embassies Meeting

The Lithuanian embassy hosted the Baltic ambassadors and community representatives for the second quarterly Baltic embassies meeting of 2016.  The ambassadors updated us on their countries’ priorities and upcoming events and a productive exchange occurred on many relevant topics.  According to one long-term participant, the meeting had the highest attendance of any such meeting since the tradition began many years ago.

In addition to the three embassies, the meeting also included representatives from the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), the Estonian American National Council (EANC), the American Latvian Association (ALA), the Lithuanian American Council (LAC) and the World Federation of Free Latvian (WFFL). 

Front Row, L to R: Kristjan Kuurme, Estonian Embassy; Lithuanian Ambassador Rolandas Kriščiūnas; Latvian Ambassador Andris Razans; Marju Rink-Abel, President, EANC; Henry Gaidis, LAC. Back Row: Vincas Marcantonio, JBANC; Krista Viksnins, JBANC; Karoline Kelder, JBANC; Ausma Tomsevics, ALA; Stasys Backaitis, LAC; Karin Shuey, Washington DC Director for EANC; Karl Altau, JBANC; Tomas Sadauskas, LAC; Ilze Garoza, WFFL/ALA; Lithuania Deputy Chief of Mission Mindaugas Žičkus.

National security was the top priority for each ambassador.  They all discussed the status of their military forces, the progress they have made towards the goals set at the NATO summit in Wales last year and their thoughts looking ahead to the Warsaw summit in July 2016.  Support was unanimous for European Reassurance Initiative funding currently working its way through Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

All three countries have elections coming up in the fall that may affect the political climate in the Baltics. A discussion ensued on the upcoming U.S. elections with speculation about implications for Europe of the potential new administrations.  The Latvian ambassador also informed us that he is nearing the end of his four-year term and his position will turn over this summer.

The ethnic community leaders presented their news and events.  EANC’s highlights included the November meeting and the publication of the upcoming History of Estonian Americans.  ALA recommended viewing of The Master Plan, the Latvian production on the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign and noted that they are celebrating their 65th anniversary this year.  They also mentioned their upcoming book on the history of U.S.-Latvian relations, to be released this month.  JBANC reported on the work they have been doing on the Hill and upcoming events, to include a policy seminar the Central and East European Coalition is planning in September on Russian soft power.

The meeting concluded on a high note with cautious optimism for our uncertain political futures.  All are looking ahead to a busy summer with the results of the Warsaw summit and developments in Ukraine.  Our next meeting will be scheduled in the fall.


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